First 5 Contra Costa partners with organizations in East County on this multi-layered effort to reform the systems and services available to African American and Black families with children under 5 with an emphasis on school readiness.
The effort includes working to enhance the capacity of early childhood systems, enhancing the skills and awareness of service providers, and empowering parents and caregivers to be change agents.
In order to succeed in school, career, and life, young children must be fully supported and prepared to begin kindergarten. A child’s wellbeing is one of the best predictors for whether or not they’ll be ready for kindergarten. Studies show that economic, food, and housing security, as well as health and wellness, resiliency in the face of trauma and adversity, and access to resources are inextricably linked to a child’s wellbeing, and therefore how ready they are for school.
But not all children have the same resources to support their readiness for school. Our 2017 study of kindergarten readiness in Contra Costa surfaced the racial disparities in school readiness between Black and other children, with some of the deepest disparities countywide in East County.
It truly takes a village to get our children ready for school, and even more so to transform years of under-investment, racist policies, and systemic oppression.
That’s why Ready Kids East County works on multiple layers of community change:
Monthly virtual cafes and quarterly in-person all-family meet ups give parents and caregivers of Black children living in East County a space to talk about their hopes and dreams for their children, and learn more about the local education systems and community supports for young families. With guest speakers and in community with others, parents and caregivers build connections and have conversations that empower them to advocate and work to enhance our early childhood systems.
This project also offers professional development and training opportunities for a variety of service providers working in East County. More than 100 individuals from a variety of service provider organizations have participated in trainings on anti-bias, anti-racist strategies in early childhood setting to incorporating anti-bias, anti-racist principles into literacy activities with young children.
First 5 Contra Costa has partnered with several service providers to develop or adapt programming to be culturally relevant and responsive to Black and African American families in East County. For example, Tandem, Partners in Early Learning, developed a program called Lil Libraries Around Town which seeks to increase the quantity and quality of literary materials available for Black and/or African American children ages birth to five years old by creating literacy stations in barber shops.Additionally, First 5 Contra Costa partnered with Counseling Options and Parenting Education to host parent education seminars in East County designed with culturally sensitive topics for Black and African American families and led by culturally relevant instructors.
Since its inception, Ready Kids has centered the experience of the community to guide its work. A Design Team composed of local Black leaders, parents, schools, and other community organizations in Pittsburg help guide and shape the effort. First 5 Contra Costa has aimed to create spaces where community members can come together, learn from one another, and build on their collective power to identify solutions and make change.
To learn more about our Ready Kids East County Initiative, contact Jessica Keener, Ready Kids East County Initiative Coordinator, at email@example.com.
Ready Kids East County is made possible by our partnerships with:
And by generous funding from the Dean & Margaret Lesher Foundation.